A dedication for the historic black cemetery in Boone will be held on Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. The cemetery is located off of Howard Street, behind Cone Hall on the campus of Appalachian State University. Following the dedication ceremony, organizers and the public will gather for refreshments at the Solarium in the Plemmons Student Union.
Boone’s historic black cemetery began as a burial ground for blacks enslaved by local landowner and storekeeper Jordan Councill. The black cemetery went largely unmarked and lay outside the original fence around the white portion of the town’s cemetery. Through the years, several of the few existing tombstones in the black section were moved, removed, or toppled. Residents of Junaluska, the local black neighborhood, were concerned about the condition of the black cemetery, which had only three remaining tombstones and otherwise looked like a grassy field where students might sunbathe and dog walkers might allow their pets to relieve themselves.
In June 2014, the Junaluska Heritage Association sent a request to the Historic Preservation Commission of the Town of Boone asking that the condition of the black cemetery be addressed. In 2016, the Town of Boone officially took ownership of both the black and white sections of the cemetery and allocated monies to improve the site, erecting new fencing around the entire cemetery and adding a retaining wall on Brown Street below.
The town also surveyed the black cemetery with ground-penetrating radar and discovered 165 mostly unmarked graves. The Junaluska Heritage Association was given permission to raise funds for a granite marker listing the names of the 65 known African Americans interred during the 20th century. Over $5000 was raised, and Austin & Barnes Funeral Home assisted with the installation of the marker.
The dedication of this marker on October 1, 2017 is the culmination of a collaboration of many individuals, churches, local organizations, and representatives of Appalachian State University and the Town of Boone.